Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt failed to collect an extra base hit again on Thursday, leading to power outage panic in Arizona over the second-year prospect from Wilmington, Del.
With a .348 slugging percentage in 2012, it's not as if Goldschmidt has become Arizona's version of struggling Angels first baseman Albert Pujols (slugging percentage of just .279), but Goldschmidt's slugging numbers' drop of 127 points since the 2011 season is hardly comforting for a .500 ballclub that finds itself 4.5 games back of the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers.
In 2011, it took Goldschmidt all of two MLB games to slug his first career homer, followed by his second just nine days later. This season, Goldy has hit one home run through 21 contests and his one HR in over 60 at-bats is far off his 2011 rate of one dinger per 14.7 ABs—still better than Anaheim's Pujols, though.
So why has 2011's Grand Slam Goldschmidt become 2012's ground-out Goldschmidt?
It has everything to do with the pitches he's been seeing: namely pitch type and pitch location.
In 2011, Goldschmidt thrived on fastballs, while putting up an ugly .294 slugging percentage on off-speed pitches to end some 76 plate appearances in 2011. The major league average for those same off-speed pitches was nearly 100 points higher than Goldschmidt's mark.
Goldschmidt's only 2012 home run came on April 6, which was a 90-mph fastball out of the hands of San Francisco Giants ace Tim Lincecum.
Last season, Goldschmidt also struggled with the middle-middle, middle-down, outside-middle and outside-down pitches that ended 90 of his 2011 plate appearances. Goldschmidt's heat map lit up middle-up and middle-in, but not much more than that.
His strikeout rate of 29.9 percent in 2011 did not bode well for a solid 2012 power campaign, especially when pitchers saw more of his strikeout tendency on game film and started to exploit the cooler parts of Goldschmidt's heat map.
Pitchers around the league have started to figure out Goldschmidt's weaknesses, and it has manifested over the past month.
The seeds of Goldschmidt's 2012 woes were planted in Rookie baseball back in 2009 and continued to grow undetected as he rose through the minor leagues. With a MiLB OPS of 1.026 to go along with his 30 HR in just 103 games in Double-A Mobile in 2011, Goldschmidt burst onto the major-league scene in late 2011, clubbing eight home runs and 74 total bases in 156 at-bats. However, Goldy has fallen prey to the classic sophmore slump during this young 2012 season.
Expect Goldschmidt to right the ship as the 2012 season continues. Sooner or later, batting coach Don Baylor and manager Kirk Gibson will help Goldschmidt work on his off-speed and location problems.
Baseball is a sport of strategy, of adjustments and new tricks. Goldschmidt is still new to the major leagues—he'll find his way.